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  CSPAN    U.S. House of Representatives    News  News/Business. Live  
   coverage of House proceedings.  

    December 15, 2011
    5:00 - 8:00pm EST  

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there is no need to shut down the government, and i see that senator reed has already signaled they may not do that after all. -- senator reid may not do that after all. i think everyone needs to step back and take a deep breath. it is an easy way to >> there is an agreement on a pill that will keep the government open. we worked out all the details and japan's. it is by part -- we worked out all of the details and shook
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hands. we are ready to vote on this. we need the president and the senate leaders to do their work. is the right thing to do. there is an easier way to resolve our issues. the senate should proceed with an open process. allowed amendments on the house passed a bill. the senators have their voices heard in an open way. it will help us get to a resolution much more quickly. no more showboats. it is time to legislate. america needs to see us earned our paychecks. this is the way this institution has worked for more than 200 years. it is the right way to resolve our differences. i think we need to use it. we can extend payroll tax relief for american workers and help create new jobs and keep the government running. we can do it in a bipartisan
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way. with that, i will be happy to answer your questions. as you know >> as -- >> are you committed to moving the second bill through the house tomorrow? >> there is an agreement among the appropriators on a conference report. it is time for a democrat to sign the conference report. iwe can move that process. >> a plan takes a step back from the path to prosperity combining traditional savings. do you think the house can support that? >> some of them were on the table in my discussions with the president. we all know that medicare needs
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to be reformed and needs to be saved. this is a bipartisan idea worthy of our consideration, where the of members getting to understand it. it is a step in the right direction. >> it sounds like you are not committed to bringing the conference support through individual legislation. is that right? >> it is my hope that the conferees will sign the report. if it does not happen, we have taken the essence of that bill and put it into a house bill. we are prepared to move it if necessary. >[no audio] >> 50% of americans think this congress has accomplished less
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than other congresses. >> welcome to divided government. the american people provided a republican house, a democrat in the white house, a democratic senate and a republican -- a democrat in the white house. we have to work to find common ground. it is not easy. it is not pretty. it is the process our founders gave us. it is my job to make it work. >> house republicans will leave town in senate democrats to pass the house bill. are you committed to keeping house members in town? >> let me make this perfectly clear. i thought i was clear all week. once the house passes an appropriations bill to keep our
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government funded, there is no reason for house members to sit around. if the senate acts, i am committed to bringing the house back. we can do it within 24 hours and deal with whatever descended -- the senate does. there is no interest on our part to try to be strident about this. we believe is important to keep the government open and finished the work on payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and tax cuts. >> do you agree with what the democrats did yesterday, dropping the millionaires' tax? >> the white house and democratic leaders realized they never had the votes to pass their so-called millionaires' tax. they did not have it when they
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had 60 votes in the senate. they are dropping something they never had. i believe there was some movement yesterday from the white house and democratic leaders to begin to sit down and have some conversations with the republican leader in the senate to try to come to some common ground. as far as the keystone pipeline is concerned, it is the definition of what the president has continued to call for. he says americans cannot wait for jobs. i certainly agree. the keystone pipeline will put 20,000 people to work immediately. there are about 115,000 other jobs that are directly related to it. is the decision is not made and is put off again, we have layoffs going on in arkansas and layoffs or those who are producing parts, whether it is pipe or pumps for this pipeline.
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those layoffs are going to occur if this pipeline does not go through. we believe that this is the right thing to do for the country. >> democrats said they were frustrated with the offer to drop in -- the response was, what else are you willing to try? >> they never had the votes for their so-called millionaires' surfax. i appreciate the fact that they gave up on their millionaires' surtax. they didn't give anything up because they never had it. there is a bipartisan majority in the united states senate for the keystone pipeline. just as there is a bipartisan majority in the house for the keystone pipeline.
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>> extending the payroll tax cut is a step further toward moving social security from a benefit earned by worker contributions and making it more like welfare. do you agree with that? >> i do not agree with that. offsetting the social security tax break for next year, offsetting it with reductions in spending that will be used to transfer the social security trust fund is a responsible way to proceed. >> mr. speaker? >> molly, i have not called on you for months. i will call on you right now. >> thank you so much. i was wondering if harry reid did you in the indications that he would ask democrats to sign a[inaudible]
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>> appropriations committee chairman hal rogers has agreed to rewrite language that sought to reinstate the bush yearss troublean -- years' been to cuba. today marked the end of u.s. involvement in iraq. leon panetta spoke at the ceremony marking the end of the iraq war. 4500 americans lost their lives in the nearly nine year war. 32,000 were wounded. here's a portion of today's ceremony.
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>> it is a profound honor to be here in baghdad and to have the honor to participate in this moving ceremony on this historic occasion. for all of the iraqi people and the american people, no words, no ceremony can provide full tribute to the sacrifices that has brought -- have brought this day to pass. i am reminded of what president lincoln said at gettysburg about
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a different war at a different time as he paid tribute to the fallen in that war. his words echo through the years as we pay tribute to the fallen of this war. the world will note and remember what we say here. but it can never forget what they did here. today, we are honored by the presence of so many distinguished guests from iraqi and american governments. to the distinguished members of the iraqi government and the iraqi military, thank you for
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your courage, for your leadership, for your friendship over these many number of years. more importantly, thank you for your loyalty to the future of iraq. your dream of an independent and sovereign iraq is not a reality. we are deeply fortunate that in addition to all of the great commanders who led our troops here, there are two great who stepped forward to lead this mission through this final transition. today we honor these two national treasures. jim, i want to thank you for
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your wise counsel, for your brilliant diplomacy at a time that called for both. our nation owes you its highest gratitude for your tireless commitment to this mission through multiple, lengthy deployments. i want to offer my deepest thanks on behalf of the american people for shouldering the burden of leadership. lloyd, our effort to make this day a reality is nothing short of miraculous. this was one of the most complex logistical undertakings in u.s. military history. 50,000 u.s. troops withdrawn seamlessly, dozens of bases
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closed or handed over, millions of pieces of equipment that had to be transferred, all while maintaining the security of our forces and the security of the iraqi people. you will now we night at the pentagon with leadership under critical times. this effort helped achieve its ultimate success. together with ray, you will lead the army to an important moment of transition as my chief of staff. a generation of battle proven leaders who have now taken the reins of national security.
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i cannot tell you how much we benefit from that great experience. i know you will ensure that those who fought this conflict -- as we confront the strategic challenges of the future, we will never forget the lessons of war. nor will we ever forget the sacrifices of the more than 1 million men and women of the united states armed forces who serve in iraq and the sacrifices of their families through deployment after deployment after deployment. the families somehow withstood the strain, the sacrifice and the heartbreak of watching their
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loved ones go off to war. the loved ones fought in places like fallujah and dadsadr city d elsewhere. today, we remember that there were 4500 brave americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, as well as being more than 30,000 wounded warriors, many of whom still struggle with serious, life altering injuries. to all of the men and women in uniform today, your nation is deeply in debt it to you -- indebted to you. you have done everything your
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nation ask you to do and more. your dedication and your commitment to this mission has been the driving force behind the remarkable progress we have seen in baghdad and across this country. you came to this land between the rivers again and again and again. you did not know what you would return to your loved ones. you will leave with great pride, lasting progress, secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the iraqi people began a new chapter in history free from tyranny, full of hope for prosperity and peace, particularly for this country's
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future generations. this outcome was never certain, especially during the war's darkest days. as a member of the iraq study group, i traveled here. sectarian violence was skyrocketing and it seems that nothing was working. today, five years later, after a great deal of blood has been spilled of iraqis and americans, the mission of an iraq that can govern and secure itself has become real. iraqi army and police are capable of responding to
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threats. the violence levels are down. al qaeda has been weakened. the rule of law has been strengthened. educational opportunities have been expanded. economic growth is expanding as well. this progress has been sustained even as we have withdrawn nearly 150,000 u.s. combat forces. with the departure of the remaining u.s. forces within these last few days until the end of the year, we salute the fact that iraq is now fully responsible for directing its own path. , future security and future prosperity. to be sure, the cost was high.
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the blood and treasure of the united states and for the iraqi people -- those lives have not been lost in vain. an independent, free, and sovereign iraq. because of the sacrifices made, these years of war have healed into a new era of opportunity. together with the iraqi people, the united states welcomes the next stage in u.s.-iraqi relations. one that will be routed in mutual interest and mutual respect. -- rooted in mutual interests and mutual respect. iraq will be tested in the days
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ahead by terrorism, by those who would seek to be by, by economic and social -- to divide, by economic and social issues. challenges remain. the united states will be there to stand by the iraqi people as they build a stronger and more prosperous nation. the u.s. is deepening our relationship with iraq with the promise of security cooperation. iraq security forces will continue to partner with the u.s. central command. the u.s. will maintain a significant diplomatic presence here in iraq. we will continue to help iraq address the violent extremism
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and defense against an external threats. we undertake this transition today reminding iraq that it has, in the united states, a committed friend and a committed partner. we owe it to all of the lies that have been sacrificed in this war not to fail. -- lives that have been sacrificed in this war not to fail. we want to be able to give our children a better life. today, the iraqi people moved closer to realizing that dream. there rockies -- iraqis can take pride in knowing that the service or sacrifice of brave warriors will help your children
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have a brave future. that is the reward that we all cherish on this historic day. this is not the end. this is truly the beginning. may god bless our troops. may god bless america and may god bless iraq, its people, and its future. thank you. [applause] >> please rise for the benediction.
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>> for the past few months, we have examined the political lives of the contenders, 14 men who vied for the presidency, but lost. we will talk with james baker and a presidential historian to see what they learned from the series. friday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. to review all the episodes, this it -- visit c-span.org. >> this weekend, in "throw them all out," the biography of apple co-founder steve jobs. and on "after words," cheap
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travel and the internet makes it easier for immigrants to stay in touch with their home countries. saturday evening at 10:00 p.m. eastern. what book tv every weekend on c- span 2. >> just a short while ago, the senate passed the defense authorization bill. after an 11th-hour compromise, a veto threat was removed. all of the floor, discussions continue on how to move forward on 2012 spending. a tweet says the megabus conference report down to two issues. one of them is cuba. we will keep you posted on any
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scheduled changes. president obama held a short briefing on the minimum wage. he announced that nearly 2 million home care workers could qualify for federal wage and overtime protections. the announcement is administration action. it is part of the president's why we can wait campaign. >> hello, everybody. as i said in kansas last week, the defining issue of our time is whether we can build an
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economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded. what this is going to be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family and build modest savings, are a home, -- own a home, look after their kids. that is the test of our time. in some cases, it will require some action from congress. right now, congress needs to make sure that 160 million working americans do not see their taxes go up on january 1. the workers who joined us here today cannot afford a $1,000 tax increase next year. it would not be good for the economy. economists indicate it is important for us to extend the payroll tax cut and to make sure unemployment benefits are extended. this congress should not leave
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for vacation until they have made sure that that tax increase does not happen. let me repeat that. congress should not and cannot go on vacation before they have made sure that working families are not see their taxes go up by $1,000 and those who are looking for work do not see their unemployment insurance expired. there is no reason why we should not be able to extend these items. before the holidays. there is no reason the government should shut down. i expect all of us to do what is necessary to do the people's business and to make sure it is done before the end of the year. only congress can prevent the payroll tax from going up next year. there are some things we can do without congress to make sure hard work pays off. that is why we are here today.
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behind me is my friend pauline beck. in 2007, she was my boss. i was in california to take part in any event called "walk a day in my shoes." you spend the day to work the job of someone in the service industry. it was one of my favorite days in the entire campaign. when we met, she was getting up every day at 5:00 a.m. to take care of an 86 year-old npt. she would dress him and help him into his wheelchair. she would make him breakfast. she would scrub its floors and clean his bathroom. she was his connection to the outside world. when the workday was done, she would go home to take care of a grand nephew and two foster
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children who did not have families of their own. heroic work and hard work. that is what pauline was all about. one thing i remember about her was her patients. she was patient with me even when i did not wring out the mop properly. i remember her talking about the hardship in her life. she did so without self pity. she was glad to be working hard. she was glad to be helping someone. all she wanted in return was enough to take care of the kids she was going home to an enough to save for retirement and to take a day off toeach of the fos a story like pauline's. they represent 1.8 million home care workers across the country, are working professionals, mostly women, who work around the clock for folks
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who need help, including many of our family members can live independently in their home. right now home care is were the fastest-growing industries in america because we're getting older as a society and as the baby boom generation its into retirement, more and more americans are going to need the services of these outstanding workers. here is the thing -- as the home care business has changed over the years, the law has not changed to keep up. even though workers like pauline do everything from beijing to cooking, they are still bombed in the same category as teenage babysitters as to how much they make. employers are not to pay these workers less than the minimum wage with no overtime. that is right. you can wake up at 5:00 in the morning, care for somebody every minute of the day, take late bus
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home at night, and make less than the minimum wage. this means many home care workers are relying on food stamps set make ends meet. an excuseountry if it is will. they worked their tails off and did not complain. they deserve to be treated and paid fairly for a service that many older americans could not live without. companies who do to pay fair wages to these women should not be put at a disadvantage. four years ago a home care worker took her case all the way up to the supreme court. evelyn was working up to 70 hours a week with no overtime pay. the court ruled against her saying to change the law would require an act of congress.
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today i did well. today we are guaranteeing home care workers minimum-wage and overtime pay protection. that is thanks to the hard work of my secretary of labor. we will make sure over 1 million men and women in one of the fastest growing industries do not slip through the cracks. we are gone to do what is fair and what is right. evelyn did not live to see this day, but the truth is americans like evelyn and pauline and the rest of the workers who are here today are one of the reasons i ran for president. they work hard, play by the rules, and in exchange they just want to see their hard work and responsibility is rewarded. it is taxable. americans all deserve a fair shake and a fair shot, and as
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long as i have the honor of being president, i will do everything in my power to make sure that those very modest expectations are fulfilled. i'm going to make sure they are treated right and make sure every american is treated fairly. thanks very much, everybody. thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2011] [captioning performed by national captioning institute]
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>> the president from about midday today, an hour and half after the president spoke. after the president spoke. his spokesman talked about resolving federal spending for fiscal year 2012 and about passing the payroll tax cut extension. this is about 50 minutes. >> good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. thanks for being here. i will go straight to your questions. >> there is suddenly an optimistic tone on the hill about getting all the last- minute business done. i was not sure i heard that tone from the president today.
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are we close to a deal? >> what you heard from the president today is in making clear what his position in its, which is he is making sure the middle class americans, working americans, 160 million americans to do not wake up on the year's day and find their taxes go up because congress refused to take action. that is his priority and he insists congress do its work, that congress does the work that they should be able to do easily because republicans say they support this and take care of the working men and women in this country. everyone gets a paycheck. it is also true that there are ongoing conversations happening on that hill and among leaders
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on the hill and representatives of the president to try to see how we can get this done. it should be able to get done, but. tax cut extension, the extension of unemployment insurance, and the spending bill, the so- called omnibus bill that congress needs to take care of before they go. what cannot happen is congress takes care of its spending bill, but does not take action to ensure americans' taxes go up. but what americans think? it would certainly that i think raise the number, the percentage of americans who have already polled, more than 40% who say this is the worst congress in history, and we have a long history now. approval numbers would go down, and that would be just and right. we do not think that will happen because republicans have indicated they want apparel tax cut extend it, which is a change
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from the position we heard just a few short weeks ago, and we are encouraged by signs of the willingness of everyone to work together to get this import business done. >> no matter how the payroll tax and the unemployment -- extent of what is in an article of faith that the body must pay more? >> let's be clear about what the president's party is, which is to insure americans not see their taxes go up on the average of $1,000. he made clear in his full american jobs at proposal, the way that he would pay for all that, including the payroll tax cut extension, and he certainly believed it is eminently fair, in the way the senate democrats want to pay for it, it is not too much to ask, 300,000
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americans, that these 300,000 wealthiest americans to pay a little bit more so 160 million americans who are getting a paycheck every week did not see their taxes go up. that to him it seems fair. the priority was not the pay- for. the focus on the pay-for was mistargeted. we have said and i have said from the beginning of this process that we are open to different means of paying for it and certainly the president's preference is that this tax cut extension be paid for. we note with irony that republicans at least in the house had it within their own bylaws that tax cuts did not need the pay-for -- paid for, but there is insistence that and not be the case. we're open to pay-fors and had
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been from the beginning. the issue here is will americans see their taxes go up on january 1. >> the president is flying to hawaii on the 17th. >> the president has made clear on earlier occasions he will stay here as long as it takes to ensure that congress does not leave town without raising -- without extending the payroll tax cut and making sure that americans do not have their taxes go up on january 1. i do not have a crystal ball to tell you when this will be resolved. as you noted, there are signs that corp. may -- that cooperation may be taking place and a compromise might occur and we can get these issues resolved sooner rather than later, but i would not hazard to guess when that will be. >> i want ask you about the white house strategy on the payroll tax cut.
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the decision to drop the millionaire surtax, how did that come about, and why now, and what do you think about that this being taken to the republicans? >> the president's party has not been to raise taxes. his priority has been to lower them, to extend payroll tax extension and expand it to the middle-class. he believes it was the fair and right way to pay for it to ask 300,000 millionaires and billionaires to pay more so americans can have their taxes reduced next year. the issue here has not been the pay-fors. we have made clear from the beginning that we were open to pay-fors as long as they were economically irresponsible, and they did not stick it to the middle-class, the people you're
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trying to help with a tax cut. what your question contains within it is the observation that republicans refused to ask 300,000 millionaires and billionaires to pay more so when have the 60 million working middle-class americans did not have their taxes go up. they refused. all but if you come or -- all but a few, or one, in teh he senate. the party has not been the paper, but insuring americans are working hard as we emerge from this great recession did not get a tax hike on january 1. that would be an unwelcome new year's gift to the american people, and congress should not
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give that gift. but the move around. -- let me move around. >> [unintelligible] >> i will ensure that 49 people in these seats and move back and forth -- i am absolutely going to take care of everyone. yes, george. >> i thought we were friends. in the white house reaction to the democratic senator wyden joining with paul ryan on a compromise on the privatization of a medicare? >> the president is committed to ensuring medicare is strong and affordable for seniors and tax
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payers. that is why he proposed a plan to strengthen medicare, cut waste, and reduce medicare and medicaid costs by $320 billion over the next 10 years as part of a balanced approach to reducing the deficit. he has made clear in a proposal to reform medicare must protect our seniors and preserve the promised the current and future beneficiaries of guaranteed affordable medicare coverage. we are concerned that wyden-rya n, proposal you mentioned would undermine rather than strengthen medicare. the wyden-ryan proposal could have medicare weather on the vine, because it could force seniors to leave the plant. at the end of this date it would end medicare as we know it for millions of seniors. the proposal is the wrong way to reform medicare.
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that is his position. jay? how >> if you do not support the plan, [unintelligible] >> the president has proposed this as part of his comprehensive deficit reduction and that control plan, and he looks forward to working with congress on that. his whole point -- the whole point that the president made during the negotiations this summer, when he put forward his proposal to the supercommittee, is if we approach it in a balanced way, the way the commissions have recommended, the way the vast majority of americans want us to approach it, we do not have to privatize medicare, we do not have to severely constrain medicaid, we do not have to slice or/programs
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that fund at the kitchen and innovation of clean energy, because if we do it in a balanced way we can reform entitlements in a way that preserves medicare for seniors and does not stick them with a $6,000 a year cost hike as the original ryan plan would. >> your sang with the president proposed is all that needs to be done -- you are saying that the president proposed all that needs to be done? >> even in their own proposal, there is only the hope of cost savings. what the president is proposing a result in $320 billion savings over the next 10 years, would perform the entitlement programs in a way that it would continue to allow them to provide the essential services years deserve
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and must have and would not require the kind of radical privatisation or and of medicare as we know it that the ryan proposal suggests and that the wyden-ryan plan gets to eventually. i'm not saying that the road we're always having to push forward with reforms in different parts of our government. , in ansident's proposal expensive way, if you include the $4 trillion of the budget control act, dealt with our need to deal with our deficit at the same level of magnitude as the o'brien plan, and did it without asking seniors to bear the burden of the cost.
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this goes back to the need for balance. you do not have to do something so radical. the president said our problems are not as great as those in some countries. >> you are saying -- the other question i have is the speaker said there is no need to tie the omnibus bill to the payroll tax because he is willing to keep congress here to keep the house here, so as soon as that senate passes the payroll tax fix the house will reconvene within 24 hours. >> i am not going to negotiate on behalf of the senate's or the president here. these are ongoing conversations. what is unacceptable is the idea that we should take a promise future action on behalf of 160
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million americans when as you know what's congress -- once congress passes a spending bill they will go home. again, it is a promise. but we want -- i am saying i do not know, the top priority this present as is that congress make sure it does not go home on its vacation until it has taken care of the payroll tax cut extension and the unemployment extension, because it would be unacceptable for congress to hike taxes on 160 million americans as it is heading out the door here. >> he is saying you do not need to -- and he is says he is trying to avoid a government shutdown tomorrow night. another congressman said the deal is done and congress is ready to act.
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>> the deal is not done until some of the issues need to be resolved. they are resolvable, the question. there is no need to touch -- to shut down the government, there is time to get it all done, and if more time is needed, congress should do what has done seven times already this year and pass a short-term c.r. there's no reason to talk about a government shutdown. >> [unintelligible] >> i am saying there are negotiations going on. there have been some signs that -- of a willingness to find bipartisan compromises here on the big remaining issues, but the priority of the president is this is not a question where 50% is ok, because if you take these
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two issues, it is not ok just to get one of them. it's a plea is not, because that means 160 million americans are up with the bill. that is not ok. >> we had a story today president obama and nettle of honor in september. does the white house find this a concern and are you intending to do anything about that, whether they in dallas history? >> the president was very proud to present the medal of honor to sergeant myer. and the sergeant, we see the best of a generation that has served through a decade of war. the answer to your question is no.
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everyone, even the reporter wrote the article, agrees that the sergeant displayed extraordinary heroism. a subsequent article within hours by that same reporter last night made it clear that myers' comrades feel he deserves a medal of honor. the president was brought to present it on behalf of a grateful nation. [unintelligible] one said one thing, the other said the other. the president believes that this young man is the best of a generation that has served through a decade of war and he was proud to present him the medal of honor. >> you keep saying the pay-fors are not the issue, but the president of one. -- the insistence on though millionaires surtax. >> i encourage you to review the transcripts that we are open to other pay-fors.
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we supported one cause we think it is fair. >> why the change? >> republican refused ask the richest americans to pay more so 160 million americans could get a tax cut next year. or not see their taxes go up, at the very least. that is what happened. we believe that was a fair way to do it, but republicans almost in lock step disagreed. they were willing to say no to a tax cut for 160 million hard- working americans rather than ask millionaires and billionaires to pay more. that is their position. we have said from the beginning that while we supported the senate democratic pay-for, that
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we were open to discussions about alternative ways to fund this. tax cut extension and to fund the unemployment insurance extension, as long as they were economically irresponsible and did not take from the middle class with one hand what we were giving with the other in a payroll tax cut extension. we should not stick to the middle class. those are our principles. >> what is the biggest hurdle to getting a deal done? >> i want to reflect the optimism here that some expressed on the hill this morning that we believe a deal can get down and there is no reason to talk about a government shut down because if we need a couple of extra days the american people would expect congress to pass a short-term continuing resolution to ensure time they had to get the
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business done. there is room for compromise. there are issues that need to be resolved in the spending measure, but they can be resolved, and there certainly are many paths to get the extension done. i think a willingness to be reasonable here would go a long way. >> one of the questions, a briefing the president received the national security quality briefing, is there any known threat out there, anything in particular that the administration is concerned about the holidays approaching prove? >> no, i have nothing about that. there is a time of year like this one where everyone is following the president's directive, where we take every measure necessary to insure that the safety of the american people both here and abroad.
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yes, sir. >> you have objections to the senate bill which you dropped. are you concerned that the bill contains the seeds of u.s. citizens' detention. are you concerned there was that big enough a change to drop an important issue like this? >> this was not a preferred approach of this administration, and we make clear if any bill that challenges the president's critical authorities to collect terrorists, and protect the nation, senior advisers recommended a veto. the administration has succeeded in prodding the authors of the provision to make it changes, including the removal of problematic provisions. while we remain concerned about
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uncertainty that this law will create for our counter- terrorism professionals and the recent changes at the present additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are the heart of our country by strength. this legislation authorizes funding for military overseas and sends the signal that congress supports -- ensures the military will be supported in the 21st century. it does not increase or change any of our authorities in regard to the detention of american citizens. it is a restatement of a party -- of all parties that were granted to the president in 2001. the changes give discretion to the president. as this law is being
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implemented, the president feels our counter-terrorism professionals are being constrained and their flexibility is being constrained in a way that does not reflect our values, then he will ask for changes, he will go to the office of these provisions and ask for legislative changes. again, the changes made were sufficient to allow senior advisers to withdraw the recommendation of the beat of, but we're still concerned about the uncertainty that this law creates. >> when the president spoke in kansas he spoke about his deep conviction that everyone pay their fair share. out the is the president's conviction is -- if he is willing to abandon the surtax on the wealthy? >> the issue is not how it gets paid for.
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the present as is clear preference. he believes that the 300,000 wealthiest millionaires and billionaires in this country ought to pay a little bit more so that 160 million working americans can get a payroll tax cut extension. [unintelligible] does this apply to future legislation, too? >> making sure regular folks out there did not see their taxes go up by a thousand dollars next year. we're open to different ways of paying for it. we at times marvel at the whiplashed caused by the sudden interest in paying for a tax cut among some republicans who have insisted that the tax cuts not be paid for. we think that is the responsible thing to do here. the only reason we're having this debate is the president put
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it in the american jobs act, the extension of the payroll tax cut pick a few short weeks ago i read to you numerous statements about -- by leading republicans saying they were not for the extension. there were perfectly happy to see when hundred 60 man americans, including the americans, including the majority of own constituents geth a high -- with a tax hike next year. we have come up their distance the republicans now say they want -- we have come a fair distance that the republicans now say they want the payroll tax extension. that is progress. what i think is the essential here is that the president's priority has not been how it is paid for or raising taxes, it has been lowering taxes for the vast majority of americans. >> when the president first
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proposed the american jobs act with a price tag of over $400 billion, part of that was asking to raise taxes on billionaires' and millionaires. broken up parts of the plan have not passed. now you're on the payroll tax, and that is also in jeopardy. is the president willing to abandon what is the embodiment of his core value, which she has been speaking of repeatedly, that the wealthy -- which he has been speaking of repeatedly, that the wealthy pay more, that everyone pay their fair share. >> what the president is interested in is that 160 million americans who get a paycheck do not see their taxes go up next year. that is the right decision for americans and for the economy. you have stated what the
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president's priority is. in the american jobs act, we had the opportunity to put 400,000 teachers back in the classroom. the president believed the right way to pay for that was to close some subsidies for corporations, to ask the wealthy to pay more. there were a variety of provisions. republicans rejected that. the rejected everything that would benefit the economy and the middle class. when the suggestion that the wealthy of us should pay a little bit more to make that happen. what is important to remember is that the american jobs act would not have added a dime to our deficit. the president is very concerned about getting our debt and deficit under control. the issue of the payroll tax, an issue that republicans used to support, and now in the last few weeks support again, is that the american people cannot in this stage of our recovery, or should not be asked to pay $1,000 on
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average in taxes extra next year. the president is very interested in that. that is his priority, making sure the congress does not leave town having protected their own tax breaks and the tax breaks of the wealthiest americans, but not made sure that the american people did not have their taxes go up. that has been his priority. >> you seem to be downplaying the idea that paying for it was important at all when the president initially said this was paid for and would not add one dime to the deficit. are you now opening the door to passing a payroll extension without it being paid for? >> we would strongly prefer that it be paid for. that is why the president put
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forward a proposal that it be paid for. that is why he put forward a democratic alternative that had it paid for. i have not seen any indication at this point that there is any disagreement about the need to have it paid for. >> senators reid and durban have >> senators reid and durban have both said this week that republicans have passed this payroll tax cut before without paying for it -- >> and generally believe that no tax cut needs to be paid for. i'm not going to negotiate a hypothetical. >> are you saying under no circumstances -- it would not have added a dime to the deficit. has that now changed? >> his proposal for the american
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jobs act and the payroll tax cut would not have added a dime to the deficit. i believe that we can -- as i have said repeatedly -- that there are alternative ways to pay for this that can be found and compromise on that meet the president's principle that we do not to harm to the middle class. how this looks at the end is something i cannot foretell at this point, but the president's priorities are clear. he restated them today, and they are focused on 160 million americans who will see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000 on january 1st if congress were to leave town without resolving this. >> they do not support the surcharge. you do not support the pipeline. how the move forward? how are you going to pay for it?
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>> rather than negotiate it with you, we're going to let those on the president's team working with congressional democrats and republicans come up with a compromise solution. i certainly believe that is possible. i have made that clear here. the president has made that clear. the president's priority is insuring the hard-working middle class americans do not see their taxes go up on january 1st. >> when prime minister maliki was here this week, there were reports that a former commander of the iranian card -- guard who played a role in a terrorist attacks that killed americans was here at the white house because he is now the transportation secretary in iraq. >> i will have to look into that. >> could you tell us later whether he was here and whether a background check had been done? >> i will look into that.
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>> one of the prime reasons given for opposing the tax cuts bill passed by the house [unintelligible] [unintelligible] >> we set about that specific republican proposal was that the president -- what we set about -- set about that specific republican proposal was that the president would veto it. our concern with that specific measure was that while it was dressed up as one thing, the reality of it would be that in lowering the caps, the requirement that things like education, clean energy, innovation and other issues in other areas would be further cut, and there are two problems with that. one, we had a deal, and we
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expect members of congress to keep their word on a deal that is only a few months old. the percentage of discretionary spending is the lowest it has been since dwight eisenhower was president. we're talking about substantial cuts already. as you know, the president does not believe that is necessary. moreover, the principal, as i have stated numerous times, it is that we not do things that harm the very people we're trying to help, the middle class of america. having said that, i do not want to tease out individual items and say this one might work in a compromise proposal and this one will not. the president's principles are clear, and he wants to make sure that congress does not leave town having not done something to ensure that americans do not see their taxes go up. >> obviously, this is not your preference, and you oppose it --
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>> i'm not going to tease out individual items and say that this is unacceptable. what is unacceptable is the bill that was presented and the issues that this administration favors policy on. if there is another bill, we will talk about that when we see it. >> as the president been personally involved in the negotiations? >> invited and met with senator reid and other senate democratic leaders yesterday. he is engaged very much so, as are key members of his team. i do not have telephone calls or reading -- meetings to read out to you, but the president is involved. >> has spoken to speaker john boehner? >> again, i do not have calls or meetings to read out here. >> is it important for him to meet with him? >> i do not want to speculate
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about what conversations he may or may not have in the next several days, but i can assure you he is actively engaged, and has made sure that his team is directly engaged in this, and he will continue to do everything he can to ensure that the priority he laid out just an hour ago be met, the congress not leave washington without making sure that the middle class not see its taxes go up on january 1st. >> actively engaged with members of both parties? >> again, i do not have specific calls and meetings to read out to you, but he is engaged. >> we're getting close to the deadline of the government essentially shutting down. has the administration taken steps to prepare for that. >> as you know, the office of management and budget oversees
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the process for the white house and the administration. i will refer you to them. there are standard operating procedures with which we are coming due to recent experience, fairly familiar, and the pri actions will be taken. that is out of and a bunt -- the appropriate actions will be taken. that is out of an abundance of caution. there is no reason to get there. there is just no reason to get there. as leaders of both parties have made clear and others have made clear, the differences in the spending bill are resolvable, and i think as everybody has now made clear, both parties want an extension of the payroll tax cut. both parties want an extension of unemployment insurance. there is no reason we cannot get that done. the president insists that congress gets that done, because it is unacceptable to leave town, go home on a month-long
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vacation having not done something to prevent american taxes from going up on january 1st, when it would be so simple to get it done. there is clearly bipartisan support for getting it done. we hope and expect that will happen. >> can you explain specifically what is your problem with the white-ryan plan? it seems like he has replicated the affordable care act. >> is created an unlevel playing field that would result in private plans being able to attract healthier americans, thereby driving up costs and premiums for medicare, and making it unsustainable for seniors to stay in their traditional medicare and force them to join private plans.
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>> it would be tied to the cost of medicare. >> the result is the same. basically causes traditional medicare to wither on the vine, and it is not necessary. it would shift costs from the government to seniors, very much as the paul ryan plan does. it is the wrong way to reform medicare. medicare. >> the position is that medicare should remain a fee-for-service program without private competition? >> the bedrock position is that we do not need to end medicare as we know it, which is what the ryan plan does and on a longer time frame, the ryan-wide in proposal does. it is just not necessary. that was the problem with the ryan budget to begin with. in order to reach the kinds of
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in order to reach the kinds of savings that he said, the $4 trillion, because you refuse to ask wealthy americans to pay a little bit more, to raise revenue, in fact, he extended an expanded tax breaks for wealthy americans. that meant he had to end welfare as we know it. it is a long-term deficit and debt reduction plan. what you're saying is we should exercise that, absent even from a debt reduction plan, and stick it to seniors that way. that is not acceptable. >> i want to return to the story of the medal of honor winner. of the medal of honor winner. in answering her question, you said that the president stands by awarding the meddle because
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his colleagues said he acted heroically. >> the reporter that wrote that story posted a shortly -- posted a story shortly thereafter that expanded greatly on his comrades -- >> how important to you and the white house is it that the president or the white house correct the narrative that may not actually reflect the available evidence of that night? >> again, i would refer you to the marine corps. the process of bidding for the medal of honor, as i understand it, is quite extensive and thorough. it is done in the department of defense and by the branch of military affected, in this case the marine corps. the president was very proud to present the medal of honor to sergeant minor. he was that day and he remains
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proud today. >> the transcript that the president read the that day -- >> it included sworn testimony of the sergeant himself and the sworn testimony of others at the scene. the white house staff also spoke personally with the sergeant. our primary resources for the president's remarks was the official documentation provided by the marine corps, including sworn testimony and sworn eyewitness testimony. the president remains very proud of sergeant meyer and the remarkable acts of bravery that he displayed on a day. >> in these negotiations on the hill, is the white house prepared to discuss the keystone pipeline, or is that beyond the
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purview of congress and has nothing to do with the payroll tax? >> it certainly has nothing to do with the payroll tax. it is beyond the purview of congress to speed up a review process that is the essential to making sure that all criteria here, all factors are weighed when a decision is granted for a permit. -- when a decision is made whether to grant a permit or not. not. opposition has included a republican governor of nebraska, because the pipeline goes through that state. those seeking a permit have said recently in the last day or two that they have not yet identified an alternate route. the state department has made clear that the idea that they could conduct a proper review in
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60 days is based on politics and not sound judgment. that is our position on what is clearly a highly experienced provision of the house republican proposal. >> would you say absolutely that the president will veto any legislation that has keys down in it? >> he would reject a proposal that tries to mandate approval of the keystone project. that is what he said when he was asked about it. again, what the state department has said, and having just explained in my answer to steve what the house put forward was an attempt to speed up the process that circumvents the kind of throw an unnecessarily cautious review --
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throw -- thorough and necessarily cautious review that is called for here. that is counterproductive. >> if they came to you with the bill were the process was longer, would that -- >> the proper way is to allow the state department to conduct a proper review based on tradition that has existed for decades. as indicated earlier, the very company that has asked for a permit has not identified an alternate route. how could be tried to short circuit this process and have a review process take place that review process take place that would clearly be too short for the kind of review that is necessary? >> the director of the imf said this morning that the crisis is unfolding in europe and escalating. it is something the eurozone
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countries cannot handle alone. has the president made any phone calls to angela merkel or any of the leaders recently, and is there a plan b? >> i do not have any presidential calls or communications to read out. he is obviously being briefed regularly on this by timothy geithner and others. our position on the important steps that europe has taken thus far and the need for europe to take other steps to conclusively and decisively resolve this crisis has not changed. we are working very closely with our european partners, offering them the advice that we can offer based on the experience that we have had, that we hope is helpful to resolving this. is helpful to resolving this. i do not really have anything else on that for you. last one. last one. >> can you explain why the
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omnibus agreement was called a republican proposal, given the democrats signed off on it? >> because the republicans submitted a proposal that is not a democratic proposal. >> democrats signed off on it. >> they did not sign off on republicans filing a bill at 11:40 p.m. on their own. that is not the case. as senator reid made clear, there are still issues that need to be resolved, should be resolved, can be resolved. we are pleased with the progress that has been made, but this was about tactics in politics. having republicans put this down close to midnight last night, i do not think that is very much in doubt.
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>> [unintelligible] i am a little confused. >> the house republicans filed a bill last night by themselves that is an omnibus bill. that is not a conference bill. it is not a democratic and republican bill. it is a house republican bill. that is i'm sure part of the atmosphere and tactics here. both sides seem to recognize that there is the capacity here to compromise, a path to compromise. the issues that still need to be resolved on the spending bill are resolvable. that is one thing. separate and very important to the president is the need to make sure that americans do not have their taxes go up on january 1st, and it is not ok to
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resolve the differences in the spending bill and leave town without making sure that 160 million americans do not see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000 next year. that would be the height of irony, that because of republican refusal to compromise, they leave town having passed a spending bill and a tax hike? they should pass it if it is all worked out. worked out. wouldn't it be ironic, given what we think we know about the american political system and the two parties, that because of inaction by congress on the payroll tax cut, they simply left town having passed a one trillion dollar spending bill and refuse to take action and therefore ensure that there is a tax hike for middle-class americans. americans. >> your statement came out
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before they filed a bill last night. >> i was not looking at my watch when these things came out. i'm not sure what the point is. what the republicans did last night was clear. we are hoping that progress is going to be made on capitol hill. we all are, i am sure, hoping the progress will be made on capitol hill and at the central work is completed in as close to an on-time fashion as possible. thank you all very much. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2011] >> tonight is the final gop candidates debate before the iowa caucuses. earlier today, newt gingrich spoke with the editorial board of the dimon register. we will have that for you at 8:00.
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on sunday, rick corrine is our guest on "washington journal." that publication will announce their endorsement for the iowa caucus. tonight, newt gingrich before the editorial board of that newspaper. the house republicans have just announced that they are going to be holding tomorrow a 9:00 closed-door conference meeting, 9:00 a.m. eastern, presumably to discuss the way forward on finishing up 2012 spending. we will keep you posted on that and also let you know that the house is coming in tomorrow at 9:00. we will have that live for you on c-span. and 9:30 a.m., coverage of day #two of the house oversight committee on the impact of the european debt crisis. several countries of already
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expressed reservations about signing on to the compromise. they have told the subcommittee that the crisis is likely to get worse and there is a significant chance it will hurt the u.s. economy. here is just a small portion of the hearing from earlier today. >> is there anything -- we're talking about monetary policy in the current situation. is there anything being implicated here by a failure for certain of these countries to really adopt austerity measures that may be able to a dress -- address some of this, or do we need to continue the imf support and otherwise to sustain it from a meltdown? anybody can jump in on that. >> i will start off. again, there in mind that commerzbank is in deep trouble in germany.
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if we have any of these writedowns, it is going to sink the european banks, which will result in, who is going to come to the rescue? in greece, there are riots. in italy, writes about austerity. i do not think it is solvable. it is not a liquidity problem. it is that they are all in solvent. it is the titanic sank in a highly liquid anenvironment. >> if that is the conclusion, if we kick the can down the road, so to speak, when is the day of reckoning? >> the trouble is that the road is getting shorter. we cannot keep kicking the can down the road. my view is that we have got to come to some resolution fairly quickly. it is difficult to see how you could string this along for
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another year, given the state of the economies, given the political resistance to adopting different measures. the point is that a number of these countries are in solvent. the second point i would make is that you're talking about huge amounts of debt in question. if we just look at portugal, greece, ireland, we're talking about a trillion dollars. if you add in spain, you're talking about another trillion. throw in italy, another two trillion. we're talking about four trillion dollars that is going to have to be written down at some stage, and that is going to have a huge impact on the european banking system when that occurs. given the interconnections between the european banking system and the united states banking system, it is very difficult to see how the united states avoids a financial crisis if you do get europe playing out in a bad way. >> what would be the specific
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implications on the united states in that scenario? >> the united states banks would be under a huge amount of stress. you go into recession. it would be equivalent to what happened in the lehman crisis. the same way that ricocheted around the world, now what would be happening is we would be having a crisis were the origin was in europe, the world's third largest economy, and the larger economy than that of the united states. that would have reverberations through the globe and the united states would be impacted. >> i just want to say, to give you a wider view, i think that
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the countries that much of the panel here things are insolvent are not necessarily in solvent. greece, clearly, but italy for example, this year is going to run a primary surplus. absent the interest payment, it is actually in surplus. it has had a number of years in the past decade in which the primary surplus was five% of gdp. what is that attributable to? in the last decade or so, they have managed their decades much better than they had historically, certainly far better than us. in the last decade, they had deficits -- and these are not primary, these are normal deficits that we normally look at. they have had deficits lower than germany, lower than france. assuming that italy is insolvent essentially assumes that their political system is so bad they cannot find a way to pare a few
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more points of gdp of their deficit, and they have shown in the past that they can. >> followed that hearing tonight at 9:00 and a number two tomorrow morning on c-span-3. next up, hearing looking and syria. over 5000 people have died in syria, including 300 children, as protests and violent clashes continued. the united nations human rights council says syria should be investigated by the international criminal court.
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>> the subcommittee will come to order. as has been well documented, the human rights being -- human rights violations being perpetrated in damascus are horrifying. we have documented some of the rest of calling him widespread human rights abuses witnessed in -- some of the of the most appalling and widespread human rights abuses witnessed in the past decade. abuse, murder, sexual violence, torture, and the abuse and murder of children. witnesses report the torture, abuse and rape of children no more than 15. one military defector stated that he decided to defect after
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witnessing the shooting of a 2- year-old girl by an officer who affirmed that he did not want her to grow into a demonstrator. the english language does not have words strong enough to adequately condemn the horrifying abuses that have been committed by the bashar al-assad regime and its allies against the syrian people. beyond questions of legitimacy, these despicable acts are proof that the machine is morally depraved. it is my belief that we and -- that the regime is morally depraved. it is my belief that we have a moral imperative to ensure that bashar al-assad is removed from power as soon as possible. according to the u.n. high commissioner on human rights, the civilian death toll in syria now exceeds 5000, and the number of children killed is more than 300. no response will nation can sit by and allow this detestable display of depravity to
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continue. today's hearing, however, was called to examine u.s. policy. several months ago, the subcommittee had the privilege of hearing two assistant secretaries discuss the obama administration human rights policies toward iran and syria. since that hearing, the administration has taken a number of steps and syria, for which it deserves credit. although it took far too much time and at least 1900 dead syrian citizens, the administration has finally come out and called for bashar al- assad to be removed from power on august 18th. unfortunately, i fear this is not enough. syria currently stands on the precedents of full-scale civil war. recent reports suggest that the ranks of the main armed opposition continue to swell,
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likely fueled by a rise in defections and intensified violence being perpetrated against the syrian people by bashar al-assad and his band of thugs. as a result, the number of confrontations between the regime and the armed opposition is on the rise. the longer bashar al-assad remains in power, the more likely this is to degenerate into a prolonged conflict spreading the country along ethnic and sectarian lines. in his testimony before the senate foreign relations subcommittee on near eastern and south and central asian affairs, assistant secretary feldman stated that "we do not want to see the situation descend into further violence. the best way forward is to continue support with the non- violent opposition while working with international partners to further isolate and further pressure the regime. while we understand the syrian people need to protect
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themselves, violent resistance is counterproductive. it will play into the regime's hands. it will divide the opposition. it will undermine international consensus." this policy of encouraging nonviolence in the face of the brutal tactics of the regime grows more untenable by the day. it is not our prerogative to tell the syrian opposition to issue armed resistance against -- eschew armed resistance against the regime when it is averaging the continues to torture, rape and murder the protesters. it was the bashar al-assad regime and not the opposition that initiated the violence. the syrian people, like all people, have the right to defend themselves against the brutality of an illegitimate and oppressive regime. moreover, i challenge any who would defend the a saud regime
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-- assad regime to see by what means he and his father maintained power. this regime has declared war on the syrian people and the syrian people have a right to fight back. we must and with them in the struggle. the outrageous and indefensible veto by russia and china of the un security council resolution against syria does not inspire hope that the broader international community will be galvanized to any kind of consensus in time to stave off more death and the outbreak of civil war. when this uprising began, many in washington were fond of pointing out that unlike his father, who murdered over 20,000 of his own citizens to quell an
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uprising, bashar al-assad does not have the stomach for such brutality. they were wrong. it is time for us to face the fact that there are no depths to which this regime will not resort to remain in power and to crush all legitimate opposition. asking syrian protesters to remain peaceful and the face of his brutal crackdown is tantamount to asking them to commit suicide, and i fear that doing so may eventually pit us against the legitimate opposition instead of with an ill regiment -- instead of against an illegitimate regime. i now recognize the ranking member from new york for five minutes. >> thank you very much for calling this very, very important hearing in selecting our excellent witness today. i too think it is worth considering how far u.s. policy has moved in the right direction
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since late july when we met with obama officials to discuss the situation in syria as well as iran. back in july, the central policy questions regarding syria were when would the united states finally and explicitly call for bashar al-assad to step down, when we finally oppose -- impose the sanctions available to us, and when would the americans move to have the international community recognize the heart of this regime's oppression? if the answer to those questions came on -- the answer to the questions came in august. the international sanctions organized by the administration in consultation with allies in europe and turkey, together with subsequent sanctions by the arab league, have made it clear that regime's days are
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numbered. this rule has been characterized by unparalleled brutality and corruption, and a broad support for iran and yemen, state support for terrorism against israel and illicit efforts that nuclear proliferation. is doomed, and deservedly so. clearly the people of syria have embraced their fundamental right to determine not only who will govern syria, but the form the government will take. we wish for them to the democratic government accountable to the public and bound to respect the rights of the people. in syria today there are sharp divisions between ethnicities and religions, between believers in nonviolence and proponents of find resistance, to tear down the bashar al-assad regime.
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there are splits between internal activists and external dissidents, between army defectors and civil society leaders. i would say to all of those syrians distraught by the lack of unity and common purpose, welcome to the wonderful world of democratic, just government. your freedom will not come easily, and certainly not without a great struggle to create a common front, as in throwing off the a saud tierney, and it will not get easier. it just will not. some -- self-government is the hardest form of government and the most complex. if the one simple and easy, stick with what you have. bashar al-assad and his piggish band of crooks, torturers and killers of children will gladly go back to the way things were. as we in the united states contemplate the end of the bashar al-assad regime, events are giving many others pause in their enthusiasm.
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the syrians to be replaced this tierney may not be jeffersonian democrats. they're apt to be those who are organized around religious beliefs. these men and women are not likely to consider themselves our natural allies. this fact is not necessarily imply that they are or need be our enemies. in the years to come, a great experiment will likely take place throughout the middle east to see whether democratic norms can coexist. some may doubt it. it often seems to me that the conflict between moscow and state -- that those who find the conflict between mosque and
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state to be unresolvable seemed to also heighten the war between church and state in our own country as well. we see a number of islamic nations outside the arab world have a number of governments that while not perfect our democratic and down by the rule of law. it would be unwise to assume that arab revolutions cannot ultimately flour into democratic forms. these new arab governments may take different forms than we would desire for ourselves, but will be legitimate.
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it is at any rate much too soon to tell. our role in these momentous events is to lend what aid we prudently can and to remain consistent advocates of the truce declared on july 4th, 1776, that all people are born free and equal, the government's drive consensus from the will of the people, and that each of us are endowed with inalienable rights. if we believe these things are is right and true today as they were on that glorious day, we must believe their right and true everywhere, not just where the bloody hand of oppression my's most heavily. >> the chair will now recognize members for one minute if they would like to make an opening statement in the order that they arrived. mr. rohrabacher from california, the chair of the subcommittee on oversight and investigation, is
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recognized for one minute. >> first of all, i'd like to thank the chairman for holding this hearing. we of many jobs as members of congress, and one is to make sure the word gets out to the american people about things that are happening overseas the deal with our values directly as a people. as we have just heard from the ranking member that there is an uprising going on in syria that goes right to the heart of what our ideals are as americans. i am anxious to hear details. this has been one conflict that i have actually been looking at from a distance, and have not really been able to determine what those details are. let me just note that when we talk about the bashar al-assad family and the dictatorship they
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have had, that is a secular dictatorship, something we oppose. the dictatorship in iran is also something we oppose, even though that is a totally religious dictatorship. i guess what americans are all about is that we are against dictators and dictatorships. i look forward to hearing the details. thank you very much. >> the gentleman from th kentucky, mr. chandler is recognized. >> i do not need to make a statement. >> crisis. mr. turner. >> i hope these hearings will find a proactive policy toward the removal of bashar al-assad. i yield back. >> the gentleman from new york, mr. higgins. >> thank you for holding this important hearing. i'm pleased to see that president obama and leaders from
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the world have called on bashar al-assad to step down. the oppressive regime has terrorized the syrian people for far too long. there brutal actions threaten humanity and the need to be stopped. our country, along with the european union, has the right to issue strong sanctions against syria, to deny them revenues for use to finance their abuse of the syrian people. we must remain steadfast in our efforts to give the syrian people what they want and deserve, that being a government representative and responsive to the will of the people. i look forward to hearing the testimony of the witness today engaging on how we can help syrians, who have been oppressed for too long, to finally have a government they want and deserve. >> thank you. the gentleman from nebraska. >> thank you. in the interest of time, i will yield back. thank you to the witness for coming today and for your willingness to hold this
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hearing. >> the jungle in from connecticut. >> thank you very much. looking forward to -- the gentleman from connecticut. >> thank you very much. looking forward to the hearing today. i think we have learned a lot about unilateral action versus multilateral action. hopefully, we can get the arab league and turkey to join with us in these actions against the bush are all a saud regime. looking for to during a weekend -- against the bashar al-assad regime. looking forward to hearing how we can form partnerships. >> i will now introduce our distinguished witness. frederick c. hoff is the special coordinator for regional affairs. he returned to government service in 2009 to lead the middle east peace efforts and to
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advise the secretary of state and other senior u.s. officials and political and security issues. since early 2010, he is coordinated the department of s and broader u.s. response on foreign criteria. he served as president and ceo of a a l c, an international consultancy. he is a vietnam war veteran and hold up purpleheart along with other civilian awards. thank you for your service to our country. without further ado, you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. chairman, ranking member, distinguished members of the subcommittee, i am deeply honored to have this opportunity
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to discuss syria with you this morning, and i greatly appreciate the invitation to do so. you have my statement. i will dispense with reading it. i have a few comments that i hope sincerely will help explain the discussion we can have this morning. nine months ago, the president of syria elected to respond to peaceful protests with violence and brutality. for nine months, he has stayed on course. a course featuring death, incarceration, torture and terror. is it any wonder that peaceful threatens to more into violent resistance? is it any wonder that the regime in its death throes,
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trying to save itself, would rather risk civil war than implement them on steps called for by the arab league to restore peace -- simple steps called for by the arab league to restore peace? in a recent interview by barbara walters, the person who clings to the title president of the syrian republic, disclaimed any personal responsibility for the regime's war on the syrian people. they are not my forces, he protested. their military forces belonging to the government. it is difficult to imagine a more craven disclaimer of responsibility. perhaps it is a rehearsal for the time when accountability will come. for now, however, it is a clear message to all who serve this
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regime. your president claims to see, here, and know nothing. whether you are a private in an infantry squad or a minister of government, your president will place the blame for crimes on you.ed squarely i in another sense, bashar al- assad performed a service in drawing a distinction between himself and the syrian state. it is a distinction that the syrian opposition is making in its detailed plans for syrian transition from dictatorship to rule of law. it is the distinction between a corrupt and incompetent, brutal, and yes, dying regime, and the
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state to which it has attached itself like a barnacle. it is the distinction between a family enterprise that has exploited the labor of over 20 million syrians to enrich itself, and a state structure which at least in theory is supposed to provide basic services to its citizens. the syrian national council is making it clear that the regime, the bashar al-assad family click must go. yet the state, for all of its warts and weaknesses, must state to provide basic services, and to help facilitate the transition. by trying this distinction, a serious opposition is performing two vital services -- syria's opposition is performing two vital services. it is helping to guarantee that if the regime agrees to leave
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quickly and fully, there is no prospect of state failure, of chaos. and it is reaching out to serious minorities, who fear the prospect of wrenching change, even as they despise the corruption, incompetence and brutality of the regime. still, there is scant evidence that this regime has any intention of saving syria as it tries to save itself. the longer this regime remains in power, the greater the chances are that syria will dissolve into bloody sectarian conflict. this would be disastrous for syria. it would be disastrous for its neighbors. how to avoid it without the voluntary stepping aside of the reckless regime is problematic.
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no one, least of all the united states, is seeking to militarize the situation. the closest we have to international consensus at the moment is that the regime must implement the steps called for by the arab league immediately and unconditionally. but it will not likely to sell -- too, and one of our most urgent tasks -- but it will not and one of our most urgent tasks is to prevent a bloody and protracted conflict. therefore, my bottom line is this. bashar al-assad's policy of violent oppression will run syrian economy off the rails. if he is willing to preside over
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, and if he keeps with the golf cooperation council -- gulf cooperation council has labeled his killing machine in tact, he may last for some time. we will try to peel away his enablers and the international community, but the nightmare of the syrian people may be far from over. their nightmare will however and. our job is to try to make sure it ends sooner rather than later, and with as little damage to the institutions of the syrian state and the unity and well-being of the syrian people as possible. bashar al-assad and his inner circle can best contribute to the welfare of their countrymen by stepping aside now without delay. when the regime is gone, the syrian people can be assured that they will have plenty of
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help in rebuilding and reforming their state, and recovering the honor and dignity squandered by those who have served themselves at serious expense. thank you. i look forward to comments and questions. >> thank you very much. we appreciate your testimony here this morning. we will now each have five minutes to ask questions. i recognize myself for five minutes for that purpose. in my opening statement, i raised my concern about the administration's continued calls for all opposition to remain peaceful. there is a logic to this policy, which i to understand. by resorting to violence, the administration fears that the opposition may lose some international consensus and also give the regime fuel with which to drum up support. and do not, however, agree with the logic.
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first, it's opposes the countries like china and russia, the latter of which recently delivered over 70 anti-ship cruise missiles to the bush are all a saud regime -- bashar al- assad regime, would ever break with the regime. they're unlikely to be swayed by more dead bodies. second, this puts us in a difficult position insofar as it brings into question whether we would continue to support the opposition if it were to fight back against the regime's brutality. in your testimony, you state that we "urge against a violent resistance, not because we are naive, but because we firmly believe the effort to extract this regime from the syrian state will succeed more quickly and bloodlessly if the revolution remains entirely peaceful." my question is why? one recent report suggests mass
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attacks on army defectors and pro-democracy activists. do we honestly expect the opposition to stand there and the murder? has the administration met with the free syrian army, and if not, why not, and doesn't have any plans to? if the wider opposition decides it can no longer remain non- violent, will we abandon support? at what point will the obama administration reconsider its policy of eschewing support of the opposition? >> neither you nor the members of this committee, nor the members of the syrian opposition, nor the syrian people are going to hear any sermons from me or anybody in this administration about self- defense. it is clear what the strategy of
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the bashar al-assad regime is. it is to attempt to channel peaceful resistance, which it cannot handle. it has no clue how to to channel piece of resistance. it has no clue how to handle peaceful resistance. channel it as best it can in the direction of insurrection. it believes it knows how to handle insurrection. this is the kind of language that that regime understands quite well. what we are hoping may still happen, namely, by virtue of the arab league initiative. there is going to be a meeting this weekend. is that somehow the arab league
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will be able to persuade the syrian regime to accept monitors, witnesses on the ground. our view is that it is less likely that this regime will do its worst if there are witnesses present. our view is that the best future, the syria's best scenario for a stable transition that preserve stability in the region is one that would be peaceful. this regime has a vote in all of that turns out. i am not about to tell people trying to defend their houses and their families that they should not do it. i and not about to tell syrian soldiers who are ordered to commit crimes -- i am not about
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to tell sue in soldiers who are ordered to commit crimes that they should follow those orders. it is a real dilemma. there are no easy answers. >> i hope you are right. i egypt is one example where violence was not necessary. libya was a different situation. had there not been an uprising, i do not see a clear way that gaddafi would have been overthrown. only time will tell. we appreciate your insight and you are an expert in this area. thank you again for your service to our country. i will now recognize the gentleman from new york for five minutes. >> i thank the chairman.
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i wanted to personally recognize the witness myself insomuch as he grew up on long island, in fort washington, a part of my constituency. a graduate of one of the most prestigious public schools that we have. is there any chance that the assad regime survives? >> our view is that this regime is the equivalent of dead man walking. the real question is how many steps remain? i think it is very difficult to predict or project how much time
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this regime has. the more time it has, the worst for syria, the worse for the region. that is very clear. no, i do not see this regime surviving. >> i would strongly agree with you. my view has always been in the end, the street went. how long it takes is sometimes measured in a lot of blood. what is there that we or others could be doing to speed up the demise of the regime that we are not doing right now? >> one of the tasks that has been assigned to me by the secretary of state is at reach to the syrian-american community. at reached to syrian-americans of the various faiths --
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outreach to syrian-americans of the various faiths, various political beliefs. one of the things members of this committee can do, i am sure each and everyone of you as a syrian-american constituents. each and everyone of you is aware of what sealing-americans have contributed to the united states of america -- of what syrian-americans have contributed to the united states america. you are able to reach out to these communities and point them in my direction. what we tell them to do, but the gallegly in the case -- particularly in the case of the communities, christians, we need to assure them that change is
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coming and that their government, the united states government, is absolutely committed to seeing syria's minority is playing a central role in the new syria. this is part, a big part, of our ongoing discussions with the syrian opposition. the need to make absolutely sure that all communities in syria are comfortable with the fact that change is coming, and knowing that they are going to play a central role in this. >> the syrian opposition holds very strong cards. it is the determinant factor of what is going to happen ultimately in syria. i think it was very important
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that the ambassador did return, among the many things he has to do is build our ties with the next generation in syria. what can you tell us in our very public setting about contacts that we have made with the syrian opposition that would assist them in their struggle? are we doing everything we can specifically with determining what the attitudes are and helping to shape as attitudes in a new regime, particularly towards the christian communities? >> that is an important point. we are not shy about the fact that we reach out to the syrian opposition. it is a major part of the
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ambassador's mission in damascus. it is a major part of my mission on the outside. it is a major part of the mission of the assistant secretary. we have sustained contacts with the opposition. the opposition is not a creature of the united states of america. it is very independent, made up of a coalition of extraordinarily independent people. they have their own thoughts on how to proceed. they have their own thoughts on what the transition from dictatorship to rule of law should look like. one of the points we have made to the opposition, i must say, they get it, is that they really do need to do a more sustained, steady job of of reach to
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syria's minorities, to christians, kurds, the list goes on. it is the concerns of these minorities, particularly christians, i think, that the regime is hiding behind. it is the key reason why the central part of cities such as damascus have remained quiet. the countryest of is experiencing protests on a daily basis. making sure that christians and other minorities understand that they are part of the solution here. at the osama regime -- assad regime is not only part of the
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problem, it is the problem. >> the gentleman from california is recognized for five minutes. >> i did not get the point you were making. why is it that those areas are quiet? because, what? you were saying areas in damascus are quiet, that was a success of something, i was not aware of the point. >> my point is to a large degree, this regime is both soaking and hiding behind the the fears of minorities in syria. fears about what their role would be in the future of syria. this tactic, this strategy on the part of the regime, helps
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account for the fact that central parts of damascus have been relatively quiet. by the same token, one more point, by the same token, with our embassy is saying is a great deal more in the way of security presence in downtown damascus. the regime is clearly worried. >> you are saying about these neighborhoods, they are christian and minority neighborhoods? is that what you are saying? >> these are areas where there is a heavy minority population. >> you are suggesting the minority communities, the kurds, the questions -- christians,
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may be attracted to support the assad regime? >> what i am saying is there is no one in syria who has any illusions about the corruption, the incompetence, and the violence, the brutality, of this regime. no one, not even the people in the inner circle of the regime have those illusions. but come up minorities in syria -- but, minorities in syria do have some concerns about what comes next. a major mission for the opposition is to address those concerns. >> how does the opposition addressed those concerns? >> it is coming along. >> you have a regime that is a
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secular regime. syria is the most religious of all regimes. the regime in iran. you have is a land. you are suggesting the insurrection -- you have is a land. you are suggesting the insurrection has not -- you have this alliance. you are suggesting the insurrection has not made it clear it? >> if you read the statement, the text of speeches that have been given, it is all fine. what we have suggested is that its messaging into syria needs to be more disciplined, more sustained, more powerful. >> if there is any ambiguity
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about whether or not the minority's rights will be respected under a new government, i would hope that will be cleared up. let me ask you about one. that seems to be a central point you are making. that is that we are opposing an insurrection. maybe the state department, maybe they earned their history books, i do not see -- maybe they burned their history books, i do not see where tyrants have ever gone down without a fight. we had an insurrection. a revolution was an insurrection. these others that you have seen where there were not insurrections, these people were tied to the west. yes, they were less than free government. they were not the brutal
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dictatorship we see in countries that do require insurrection to get rid of. i think we are sending the wrong message. we should be sending the message that, yes, we support the brave people who are struggling for their freedom. guns come to play, which they will, we hope they win. >> you can answer the question. >> thank you. i take your point. i take your point. what we have seen from the beginning is this regime as its central strategy pushing events in the direction of insurgency. that is what we have seen. it appears that they may be succeeding. >> thank you. the gentleman from kentucky is
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recognized. >> thank you. thank you mr. hof. i think this is an incredibly important subject. nobody in this country is a fan of the assad regime. we would all like to see it leave. if you look at the history of the regime, they have done a number of things to maintain power. i know what you are saying about the minorities. they have caught the minorities to live in fear of rule by the majority. i know they are continuing that feeling amongst the minorities. they have also used israel as a bogeyman to maintain their position at the top of the country as a minority. with that in mind, what leads
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anybody to believe that they would agree to some kind of settlement or to leave voluntarily? what is in it for this regime to leave voluntarily? they are guilty of a lot of crimes, obviously. there is going to be a desire to prosecute, leaving members. i have a hard time seeing that this will go anywhere but the direction of a fight to the finish. there is not anything in it for assad and his henchmen in charge of the regime to leave without a fight. there is no benefit to them to leave. the second thing i would like for you to address, if you do not mind, give us some idea of where turkey is. i know they are sheltering some
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of the opposition. how far along in that effort are they? are they looking at the possibility of arms intervention across their borders? what is going on with turkey's efforts to remove the osaassad regime? >> on the scenario of the fight to the finish, there is plenty of historical precedent that substantiates your view on this. i think syrians across the board recognize that the cost of a fight to the finish will be prohibitive. it will be prohibitive for the country, for the region.
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nevertheless, we cannot discount the strong possibility that this is the direction the regime is going to choose to go in. the syrian opposition, in coordination with the arab league, is trying to pull out all the stops as we speak. to try to prevent that scenario from taking place. the opposition will be going to cairo with a transition plan that it will discuss in some detail with the arab league. it is a plan that involves deep arab league involvement in offering some protective asylum to the regime. i think from the point of view of the opposition, it owes
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itself, it owes the syrian people the opportunity to try to run that to the gun. it may not work. they are going to drive. -- to the ground. it may not work. they are going to try. with respect to turkey, the big thing that has happened is a basic change in how turkey analyzes the central nature of the problem. turkey has gradually but irreversibly come to the conclusion that bashar al-assad is not part of the solution. he is part of the problem. he poses an unbelievable national security threat to turkey. as you mentioned, but turkey has provided shelter to the free syrian army. what the turks tell us is that
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they are not harming these folks -- arming these folks and sending them to syria. that is their position. we have no reason to disbelieve it. i am sure that turkey is examining many, many, many different options and contingencies right now based on a variety of scenarios that could come up. i am not aware of any near-term plans to establish safe zones or whatever. >> the gentleman from new york is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i think this regime is a lot closer to libya and iraq than 10 years ago. i do not think either of these would have been a regime change
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without some outside help, clearly in a rock. -- iraq. to the insurgents hold any territory? is there any method or support they are getting in terms of arms or equipment? is there any outside help? would we be, the united states, averse to supplying some of that, when a code? >>-- or nato? >> as far as we are able to tell, the syrian opposition does not hold territory in syria. of course, there are opposition people located in various urban neighborhoods. there are opposition people who
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move back and forth across various borders. i think the key thing right now , before we try to determine how we are going to relate to all of this, the syrian opposition, particularly in the form of the syrian national council, is still trying to figure out how it relates to the free syrian army and to syrian army defectors. i do not think we want to jump ahead of that. i think we need to see how things play out with the ceiling national council and its own relationship building and its -- and in relation to the ongoing arab initiative. >> is the army anything more
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than a name? but their actual units? -- are there actual units? >> it is difficult for us to get a good handle on this. it does appear that several thousand syrian soldiers have voted with their feet. they have decided that they no longer want to be put in a position of having to support criminal activity against their own citizens. it does not appear that the free syrian army is the kind of organization on which one would do a formal order of battle. in terms of the italians, brigades, and so forth. -- in terms of battalions,
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brigades, and so forth. >> thank you, i yield back. the gentleman from new york is to recognize. >> thank you. to follow up, the ceiling and rebels do not appear to control -- the syrian rebels do not appear to control any territory, nor have there been any major defections from the government. who are the leading forces in the rebel opposition and who are they aligned with? where is this thing going? if you are not -- if you do not have momentum you and not winning. would you characterize the opposition as having momentum
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and able to sustain momentum? >> that is a difficult question for me to give a definitive answer to. if you had asked me a couple of months ago, would there be the level of the actions we are seeing now, -- would there be the level of defections we are seeing now? i would not have known the answer. it is difficult for me to speculate what things will look like 90 days from now. the main thrust of the syrian opposition today remains that part of the opposition that is absolutely committed to peaceful transition in syria. we are talking about the syrian
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national council and other organizations. these are organizations that are absolutely determined to do their best to avoid civil war. that is the main event like mel. it is those organizations and their -- that is the main event right now. it is those organizations. this is the main game in town. >> this went from a peaceful call for reform to a growing, armed insurgency into what could evolve into a civil war. the allies of assad are russia and china. they have blocked u.n. security council combinations of
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damascus. the united states and the european union and the sanctions imposed on the syrian government seem to be having an impact in terms of oil revenues, foreign investment, in terms of deterioration of the tourism economy of syria. >> yes, i think we are talking about sanctions, first of all, truth in advertising. my colleagues are the real experts on this. we have identified over time basically seven categories of sanctions, central bank, commercial bank, other financial institutions, government official, other individuals,
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governmental entities, and non- governmental entities. these are the categories of things to target. those seven categories, over time, the united states is 747. -- 7 for 7. the european union is f sixthor 7 -- 6 for 7. the arab league, if it goes through with sanctions, will be 3 for 7. turkey will be 3 for 7. in the future come up much of our effort will be in working with turkey and the arab league to see if additional work can be done in that area.
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it is having an impact. i hasten to add, the impact of sanctions is dwarfed by the impact of bashar al-assad driving that economy straight off the cliff to his policies. what the gentleman from pennsylvania is recognized. >> -- >> the gentleman from pennsylvania is recognized. >> thank you. i thank you for your military service. latourette me if i am wrong, i apologize -- correct me if i am wrong, i apologize for walking in blake, did you say you hope the arab league has influence on assad to the point he will change his attitude and his mind? >> it is difficult for me to
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measure the precise amount of influence the arab league is going to have on bashar al- assad. clearly the steps the arab league has taken to date have sent this regime into a state of shock. the message is rather clear, syria itself is a founding member of the arab league. syria has always been a central part of arab league deliberations. the message from the arab league is syria is important, the syrian people are important. this regime has divorced itself from the arab world. >> you are not suggesting that
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assad be granted at a community for all the acts he has committed? >> -- be granted immunity for all the acts he has committed? >> this is not my suggestion. the critical vote will be cast by those who will replace this regime and manage syria's transition to something better. they are the ones in charge, not us. >> i would hope that we would more than suggest that this man be punished for the clients he has committed in the name of humanity. -- for the crimes he has committed in the name of humanity. the united nations wants to submit this to the international criminal court. at this in criminal law for many years, i have found --
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practicing criminal law for many years, i have found that is not the most aggressive court and will not implement any punishment that would be satisfactory. to what affect would the court come in on this? >> i do not know whether the icc plays in this in the long run or not. the only thing i think i know is that these are basic calls that need to be made by the syrian opposition. i cannot rule out the possibility that the opposition itself could come to the conclusion that there is a price to pay. yes, a distasteful price. yes, a disgusting price even.
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if it gets thich click out of the country -- this click out of the country, is it a price worth paying? it is not a price for us to exact. there are people who are going to be responsible for running that country when this nightmare is over. >> i find it ironic that of all countries, russia opposes a syria from going before the international criminal court. with that said, i yield back my time. what the gentleman from florida is recognized for 5 -- >> the gentleman from florida is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. syria is in a critical crossroads as he said. we have an opportunity to do the right thing and take the right
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steps. we may have altered in the airbus bring -- faltered in the arab spring. i am distressed by what is happening to the religious minority. relationssted in the the state department may have had with opposition groups. had any discussions centered with developing a constitutional allmework that detectprotects religious minorities? has that been the case? if not, why not? >> thank you. thank you for your question. the issue you have raised has been precisely the focus of every single interaction we have had with the civilian opposition. -- with the syrian opposition.
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we focused on two. in particular. this is with the syrian national council. note 01, 8 -- number one, it is essential that minorities, what did they be christians, kurds, be adequately represented on the inside, in these organizations. there is significant crop progress being made -- there is significant progress being made. >> can you elaborate on the progress being made? >> there are people being incorporated into the organization. the syrian national council is
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actively recruiting people. it is having success. in some cases, i am sure you will understand why, particularly for syrian national council members living inside syria, it is important that their identities be protected. you are not going to see a great deal of publicity about this. the second point we have been making is that the syrian opposition have to be absolutely relentless, absolutely consistent in its messaging to all syrians, but in particular to minorities. caelian minorities are worried about -- syrian minorities are worried about the future, even as they acknowledge the
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rottenness of this regime. the regime is so bad that assyrian christians have often -- that syrian christians have often been at the head of immigration lines to head to the united states, canada, france, australia, places where there could be an opportunity. places where there could be political freedom. i think what the opposition is looking for is a situation where syrian christians and other minorities and not feel compelled to leave the country. >> thank you very much. i yield back. >> we will go through a second round. i think it will be brief. i will recognize myself for five minutes. one of the things we are struggling with here is
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ultimately whether or not physical force is going to be necessary to remove this tyrant from power or not. your indications, your hope is that will not be necessary. there will not have to be armed conflict to get rid of the sky. -- conflicts to get rid of this guy. i think it is going to be necessary. there have been different examples. we have seen others who saw the writing on the wall and into luxurioused exile. you have other examples holding on to the bitter end, like saddam hussein and gaddafi.
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it is not clear what direction this is going to go. i think you would agree with that. let me go in a different direction. first of all, lebanon, syria has a long history of intervening in the sovereign affairs of the lebanese republic. since the uprising in syria began, violence has spilled over into of the non to varying degrees. recently, a number of accounts have surfaced regarding the violation of lebanese sovereignty. the mistreatment of cicilline refugees and the kidnapping -- assyrian refugees and the kidnapping of syrian dissidents. given the close ties between the two countries, there is risk
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that continued unrest could spill over into lebanon. what implication is the unrest in syria having on neighboring will anon? -- lebanon. is it capable of confronting the challenge posed by prolonged sitting unrest? -- syrian unrest. >> thank you. that is an important and difficult question. the lebanese are beyond being worried about the potential implications for lebanon of what is happening in syria. there has been refugee movement into northeastern lebanon. there could easily be more.
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the capacity of the government of lebanon to handle this is limited. the capacity of lebanese security forces is certainly a challenge. all i can say is that this is a major central agenda item for our embassy in beirut and its contacts with the appropriate people in the lebanese government and the lebanese military and the internal security forces. you are right, lebanese are worried about this and they should be. >> thank you. let me conclude with russia. let me follow up. since the unrest in syria began you would agree that russia has proven remarkably cut a productive -- counterproductive.
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not only have they thwarted efforts to ramp up pressure, they have gone so far to deliver the regime anti-ship cruise missiles. in his testimony on central asian affairs, the assistant secretary testified that this is a matter the u.n. security council should be dealing with. we would hope that russia and china all, at looking at how the assad regime has opposed all mediation, would realize it is time for the security council to act. is there anything you believe could persuade russia? is it a hopeless case? if we are not able to get the russians and chinese on board,
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does this not rule out the u.n. as a realistic option? if so, what are the administration's steps in response? >> if indeed it is a hopeless case, the one thing i know is we cannot act as if it is a hopeless case. we have to redouble our efforts with moscow to persuade it that its backing of this regime is not only helping to facilitate a humanitarian catastrophe, but it is not in the interests of the russian federation. change is surely coming. i think there is another important element of this, some
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think the russian federation have to take into account. that is its relationship with the balance of the middle east. particularly, the balance of the arab world. what we have now unfolding is a very important and unprecedented arab league initiative to get syria to a series of reasonable conditions, to turn the temperature down and create a possibility of a negotiated settlement. i think moscow is watching syria's performance very carefully in all of this. it is one thing for the united states to keep up the effort to
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persuade moscow, i think others may have some leverage as well. that may be the sound and most hopeful way forward. >> thank you. the gentleman from new york is recognized. >> thank you. it was a couple or three years ago the syrian nuclear program in its nascent form and to give from north korea -- form, thanks to a gift from north korea, was destroyed. evidence seems to indicate is re my dead hadaelis something to do with that. -- might have had something to do with that.
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that being the case, it does not take away from the fact that syria is a possessor of large amounts of chemical and biological and ballistic stuff. that nobody has publicly addressed. are we talking to the opposition? perhaps that is why the new lot of your statements and responses -- the nuance of your statements and responses, you have steered away from exacerbating the possibility of a civil war. are we discussing with any of the possible future leaders of syria what happens with that material and equipment? have we made progress, or is this not the venue to discuss
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that? maybe we can have a different meeting in which we could discuss that? >> thank you. i think a different venue would be appropriate. what i can say, in terms of discussions with the opposition, this may well be a subject that could come up sometime in the future. most of our discussions with the opposition have a focus on challenges that are right in front about faces right now in terms of getting this transition started. i would respectfully suggest a different venue. >> with the gentleman yield?
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we would be happy to work with the gentleman's staff. >> thank you. the international community has been active on the syrian issue, specifically the arab league has done things and acted in ways that some of us might not have thought possible at the beginning. it is much to their credit. unlike their level of activity in some of the other countries that are experiencing shifts in power. the russians and the chinese that behavior -- bad behavior seems to have created an understanding that those
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countries and their blocking united nations activities puts them in opposition to the street in syria. one might assume that there is a fissure that has developed between the future leaders of syria and the current leaders of those two large powers. i would think that this presents an opportunity for us to take advantage of that. the question is, are we so doing? >> thank you. i must say that if i were given the choice right now, i would rather have the full cooperation of the russian federation in bringing pressure on this regime. i would rather see the russian federation redo the arithmetic
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on this and come to the conclusion that it is losing the syrian street and an adjustment is necessary. >> i would agree with you in humanitarian terms. that would bring a quicker resolution to this situation. given the fact, looking at the long-term prospects, our competition is going to be china, especially. i would think that russia then playing if i had my -- we would look at what the real world opportunities are and have to take advantage of the fact that this is an important region with 22 muslim countries and others watching carefully, to show it is we who are more concerned with the people in syria who are
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supported by the arab league, to prove our lines to their humanitarian interests. >> i think that from the point of view of 23 million assyrians their -- syrians, there is no question as to who has stepped up to the plate. >> keep up the good work. >> the final questionnaire would be the gentleman from california. >> thank you very much. thank you for holding this hearing. i have often thought about writing a book about diplomacy. i think if i ever do, it is going to be entitled "the art of juggling."
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i know that people like yourself have so many factors that you are juggling in the air that it is hard to come up, it is almost impossible, to come up with a definitive position that takes into account all of those things you have to take into account. let me suggest that you have a lot of other things you are duckling that i am not. -- are juggling i am not. let me say i respect and appreciate the job that you and other american diplomats are doing. but i am disappointed today in the apprehension that i am hearing about armed resistance to tyranny. i think one of the reasons -- one of america's greatest assets is people who want freedom and
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liberty and justice in this world see america and americans as their ally. that is one of our greatest assets. i think it is disturbing to people who are under attack, whose children may have been killed, soldiers who are about to change sides to decide if democracy -- cast their faith with those who are struggling for a freer society, in syria and other places, to hear an american representative being so, not opposed to, but so conflicted about whether or not violence is justified. violence is a way of defending oneself and achieving freedom. we would not have achieved
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freedom in the united states, i do not know -- i do not know many countries who would have achieved freedom. this idea that people can go to the streets and face them tanks or whatever and hold hands. that is not what brings about freedom. it is a commitment that people make when the guns aren't going off -- start going off that they will stand firm. i hope that nobody gets the idea from what you are saying that we americans are in somewhat hesitant to support those who were fighting for freedom in their own country. >> thank you very much. as i mentioned at the beginning, there will be no sermons from me or from anybody else in the administration about people not having the
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right to defend themselves. this regime has tried from the beginning to produce the result that it is facing today. the syrian national council, the arab league, and others are trying to pull syria back from the brink. the consequences of this getting out of hand could be terrible for the country and the region. it may be inescapable. you have cited some historical precedents, these presidents may be the guideposts for the future. i cannot blame the syrian opposition for coping that this
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cut passes -- for hoping that there may be a way to stave off civil war. to see an end to this regime and to see a transition to something decent. please, i am not a career professional diplomat. i admire people who are. people in the state department are working at night and day and they are sacrificing a great deal. i am a former soldier. i appreciate the right and the necessity of self-defense. please, please do not see in my words any compromise on that principle. >> one last note, self-defense
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is one thing, conducting a fight for liberty and justice is another. i think we as americans do support the right of people to fight for their freedom. thank you very much. >> time has expired. thank you very much. it was brought to my attention, mr. connally was on his way. if he does not make it, we are going to have to wrap up without him. i want to thank the witness for his testimony. if there are no objections, members will have five days to submit statements and questions. if there is no for the business, we are adjourned. thank you. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2011]
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>> next month, the supreme court will hear arguments on a case dealing with the constitutionality of the current fcc standards for indecency. the case cites a 1974 case. a british station -- in british station aired a comedy -- >> the words were broadcast in a ti